How to support early literacy at home

Even though it might seem to happen naturally, learning to read comes to kids after years of gathering literacy skills. Even small things, like pointing out the name of their favorite snack at the grocery store, can play a part in a child’s literacy development. 

Below we’ve laid out a roadmap of learning to read. 

Reading roadmap:

  • Set the foundation
  • Learn basic words
  • Start with short sentences
  • Read simple books and more advanced words
  • Read longer books independently
  • Support reading comprehension

Dive in, explore, and discover some practical tips for supporting your early reader along their journey, including where to go on IXL to practice their new skills.

Set the foundation

Before learning to read and write, kids should build a strong understanding of the relationship between letters and sounds. All words consist of sounds, and these sounds are represented by letters. Help your child understand that sounds can combine to make words, and words can be broken down into sounds. 

Try these strategies to help kids build a solid reading foundation:

  • Teach letter names and sounds together as much as possible. For instance, when you point out the letter B, you can say “B, like in /bbb/ baby.”
  • Play rhyming games and word games that focus on the beginning and ending sounds in words. This kind of wordplay helps learners understand that words are made up of sounds. 
  • On IXL, practice letter name and sound skills in the “Letter identification” and “Consonant sounds and letters” categories. Try blending sounds together to make a word or breaking words down into sounds with skills in the “Blending and segmenting” category.

These IXL skills will help your learner gain a strong understanding of phonics. Type the three-digit code in the search box on to go directly to the skill:

  • Choose the letter that you hear (2WZ)
  • Find the word that begins with a given sound (DJB)
  • Blend each sound in a word together (FJ5)
  • Put the sounds in order (YNU)

Learn basic words

Once your child understands that words are made up of sounds and that letters represent sounds, they are ready to sound out short consonant-vowel-consonant (CVC) words, like cat, dog, pig, and bed

Your learner may also start to recognize common sight words, like the and of, which show up all the time. It’s best to teach CVC words

 before sight words, so your kid learns that there is a “code” to reading and understands that using the code is better than trying to memorize every single word.

Here are some practical ways to help children read elementary words:

  • Make flashcards with CVC words and have your learner sound them out. 
  • Make flashcards with sight words and have your kid memorize them one at a time. 
  • Tape some flashcards to the wall, give your child a fly swatter, and have them swat at the word you call out. 
  • On IXL, practice skills in the “Short a,” “Short e,” “Short i,” “Short o,” “Short u,” and “Short vowels” categories to get familiar with CVC words. Also, practice skills in the “Sight words” category. 

Your learner can strengthen their knowledge of basic words with these IXL skills: 

  • Choose the “short a” word that matches the picture (XS9)
  • Read sight words set 1: ate, he, of, that was (UJ5)

Start with short sentences

Once your child can sound out words and recognize some high-frequency sight words, they can start putting these two things together to read short sentences!

Keep these tips in mind while helping your learner read sentences:

  • It’s a lot of work to read a whole sentence, so be sure to keep sessions short and fun. 
  • Give children time to figure out words on their own, but offer gentle support to help them figure out words they’re struggling with. 
  • On IXL, practice the sentence-reading skills in the “Short a,” “Short e,” “Short i,” “Short o,” “Short u,” and “Short vowels” categories. 

Try these IXL skills to practice reading sentences:

  • Choose the short o sentence that matches the picture (UKW)
  • Complete the sentence with the correct short vowel word (EN9)
  • Read questions with short vowel words (WYM)
  • Complete the sentence with the correct sight word (8QQ)

Read simple books and more advanced words

Now that your child is reading short sentences with CVC words and common sight words, they are ready to start reading simple books. Additionally, you can start teaching them how to sound out more advanced words: words with consonant blends (stop, trap, crab), words with digraphs (chat, shop, this), and long vowel words with consistent patterns like silent e (e.g., hope, note) and vowel team (e.g., train, goat).

Although these words are slightly more advanced, they all follow rules and patterns. If you teach your learner these rules rather than having them memorize words, you’ll give them a key that they can use to unlock all kinds of new text they’ve never read before! 

Ways to help kids read simple books and more advanced words:

  • Start with books that have large images and only one or two sentences per page.
  • Borrow decodable books from the library. These are books with a high percentage of words that follow a specific phonics pattern. For instance, you can find books that focus mainly on CVC words or books that focus mainly on vowel team words.
  • Teach your child the “rules” behind key phonics patterns. You can find these rules in the “Key ideas” or “Remember” boxes for phonics skills on IXL. For example, here is the Remember Box for the “silent e” pattern:
  • On IXL, practice skills in the following categories: “Consonant blends and digraphs,” “Short and long vowels,” “Silent e,” “Vowel teams,” Read-alone literary texts,” and “Read-alone informational texts.”

These IXL skills are recommended for reading advanced words and simple texts:

  • Choose the silent e word that matches the picture (C9A)
  • Read animal fantasy (DTP)

Read longer books independently

After your child is comfortable with reading short books and understands how to sound out several different types of words, the next step is to start reading longer books and continue to learn new rules for reading harder words. 

Here’s how to help your learner start reading longer books more independently:

  • Make sure that your child is reading texts at the right level. They should be able to read the text on a page with only a few minor errors.
  • Encourage your kid to read independently for at least 15 minutes every day.
  • On IXL, practice the literary and informational text read-alone skills and any skill in the “Reading foundations” category that hasn’t been covered yet.

When kids are ready for longer pieces of text and more advanced words, try these IXL skills: 

  • Choose the r-control sentence that matches the picture (XCE)
  • Complete the two-syllable word (UBX)
  • Read about famous places (HYR)

Support reading comprehension

As your child is learning to read, it is important to keep in mind that reading comprehension is the ultimate goal. It is not enough for kids to be able to read the words on a page; they must also be able to understand what they’re reading. 

Reading comprehension skills start with developing a foundation of listening comprehension, so, it’s important to read books aloud to your child starting at an early age. By reading aloud and talking about the books, you expose them to story structure and new vocabulary, and you help them build their world knowledge—all of which are crucial for reading comprehension.  

Try these tips to help your learner build reading comprehension skills:

  • Don’t stop reading to your child after they start to read on their own.
  • Read books to your kids that are above the level at which they are reading themselves. 
  • Read a variety of books aloud, including informational texts (history, science, nature, etc.). You can borrow these books from your local library, or find videos of people reading them out loud online. 
  • As you read to your learner, ask comprehension questions and vocabulary questions: 
    • “What do you think will happen next?”
    • “Why do you think the character did that?”
    • “How do you think the character feels?”
    • “What do you already know about [topic]? What’s one new thing you learned about [topic]?”
    • “Can you guess what [word] means?”
  • On IXL, practice the skills listed in “Reading strategies,” including the read-along literary and informational text skills.

These IXL skills will help children strengthen their reading comprehension:

  • Read along about science and nature (58P)
  • Read along with fantasy (BHZ)

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